HOUSTON -- If you have to give up a home run now and then, the idea is to do so with nobody on base. Solo homers don't do as much damage as three-run jacks. However, homers without men on base can add up to deliver a knockout punch, which the
HOUSTON -- If you have to give up a home run now and then, the idea is to do so with nobody on base. Solo homers don't do as much damage as three-run jacks. However, homers without men on base can add up to deliver a knockout punch, which the Astros' four solos shots accomplished Wednesday night in the Rays' 5-1 loss at Minute Maid Park.
Tampa Bay completed its seven-game road trip to New York and Houston with a 2-5 mark against the Yankees and Astros, two of baseball's best teams. The Rays head back to St. Petersburg with a 34-40 record. After an off-day on Thursday, they will begin a three-game weekend series against the Yankees at Tropicana Field.
"We have New York, Washington and Houston [coming to Tropicana Field], so it's going to continue to stay tough," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We knew, we circled this spot on the calendar coming out of Spring Training. And it was going to be challenging, and it's lived up to that. But hopefully, being on the road, we'll learn something, we'll take it back home and find a way to flip flop that record a little bit."
Nathan Eovaldi made his fifth start of the season for the Rays, and entering the sixth, the only run against the right-hander had come via Jose Altuve's solo home run in the fourth. That would change.
George Springer opened the sixth with his 15th home run of the season. Alex Bregman followed with his 11th. Then, with a sellout crowd of 43,409 chanting "M-V-P! M-V-P!" Altuve connected for his second home run of the game and seventh of the season to give the Astros a 4-1 lead.
"It definitely happened quick," Eovaldi said. "I think, after the Springer home run, I was a little more frustrated with my pitch location, where it was and how I got there. I think I had him 0-2, then he worked the count 2-2, then I missed with that fastball down and in when I was trying to go up and in. I just have to do a better job of executing my pitches in those situations."
It was the sixth time in franchise history that the Astros hit back-to-back-to-back homers, but they had not done so since May 2, 2008, against the Brewers.
"I don't think [Eovaldi] lost any effectiveness," Cash said. "I think it's the typical third-time-through-the-order effect that is so obvious throughout the game right now. And they're really good."
Rays third baseman Joey Wendle noted that losing doesn't feel any better if they lose to a winning team.
"We go out with the expectation of winning every game," Wendle said. "And this trip, we weren't able to get that done."
Tampa Bay's only run was unearned, coming in the fourth following Mallex Smith's one-out single against Charlie Morton. Smith was running with the pitch when Carlos Gomez grounded to third. Smith rounded second and took off for third, forcing a hurried throw across the diamond from first baseman Yuli Gurriel. The throw went wild, and Smith scored to put the Rays up, 1-0.
Jake Bauers doubled and drew two walks. His 11 walks are the second most recorded by a Rays player within his first 14 Major League games, behind Akinori Iwamura (12 in 2007).
HE SAID IT
"We're not good enough. ... Good teams find ways to win games. And we didn't find a way to win two of those games." -- Cash,on how the Rays measured up against the Astros, who won their 50th game
After an off-day Thursday, Ryne Stanek will head to the mound Friday to make his seventh career start as the Rays host the Yankees in a 7:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field. In his last start Monday against the Astros, Stanek retired all five batters he faced on 11 pitches. He hasn't allowed a run in eight appearances since the beginning of June. The Rays are opening a nine-game homestand.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.